Hoping and Waiting

by Dyann Shepard

Do you ever get tired of waiting? I do. I am impatient once I know what I want and when I want it. Not one of my admirable qualities.

Scripture is full of hoping and waiting. Abraham and Sarah waited 40 years for Isaac. The Israelites waited 430 years for freedom from Egypt, then another 40 years to see the Promised Land.

What are you waiting for? Are you tempted to assist God in fulfilling His promises when He is too slow? Abraham tried to bring about God’s promise of a son by impregnating Hagar. The Israelites tried to realize their hope with the golden calf when Moses seemed to linger too long at Mount Sinai. We live in an impatient world, expecting things to be resolved quickly and cleanly without rough edges. When life does not cooperate, we lose our patience and hope, often taking events into our own hands to “help” God fulfill His promises more quickly.

I want to be like Jesus. But I forget this requires presenting myself daily to God as a living and holy sacrifice, as my spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). It requires renewing my mind and conforming to His will. God is the potter who does the molding and transforming.

I want to be the potter without the kiln’s fire, the hand’s pressure, and the palm’s kneading. I fancy the shortcut version with the long-term effect. My hope is misplaced as I depend on my abilities rather than God. I must allow the Lord to work in me to will and to do His good pleasure. He will complete the work. Again, I must wait.

So we live as the Israelites did, waiting expectantly, participating with God but with the tension of not taking steps to fulfill the promise before the appointed time; a fine and delicate balance. God knows me well. My loving Father also waits. He waits for me to turn back, give up control and see the work and glory of God, in His time, in His way.

Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 9:6: For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The wait was almost 700 years before Messiah Jesus was born.

We are in good company as we wait with hope.  Waiting was modeled for us by Mary and Joseph after the angels promised that Mary would birth the Messiah. Elizabeth and Zacharias waited for the son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. Simeon waited after the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not see death until he saw the Lord’s Christ.

God gave each a word and a promise. Each waited to experience fulfillment. Mary and Joseph trusted God in a way I cannot fathom. When Simeon’s hope was fulfilled, he held the baby Jesus in his arms and declared with praise to God, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations” (Luke 2:28–31).

It is easy to fix our eyes on the baby in the manger: quiet, sweet, peaceful, and uncomplicated. We must look past the manager and to the cross: loud, painful, tumultuous, and complicated. Look up, and give glory to God, our creator. He chose to take on the form of a vulnerable human being for our salvation. Jesus is our hope, the hope of our salvation.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Dyann Shepard is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, speaker, Bible teacher, former staff member of CRU,  Stephen’s Minister and retired CPA. Her passion is writing about God’s transforming power in our daily lives as we open our hearts to Him. Her Bible study “Wisdom: Capturing the Power of our Words” was released in 2022.  She is a contributing writer for Just Between Us magazine and writes a monthly blog.

Join the conversation: For what are you waiting today?

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Resting upon His Shoulder

by Patti Richter

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

The words proclaim a good-news message set to music that much of the Western world either welcomes or tolerates each December.

Handel’s Messiah, theultimate Christmas (and Easter) composition, contains hopeful promises from the book of Isaiah, who foretold of the coming King whose reign would never end. God spoke through the prophet to a nation weary of sin, strife, and disappointing rulers. This sounds a lot like the world today.

While Christmas carols and concertos serve to temporarily dispel some of the gloom that plagues the nations, the Word of God provides long-lasting hope for humanity. Any meager outlook regarding peace, health, and freedom, gives way to a better view.

Isaiah continues with hopeful news indeed: “And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6 NKJV).

Some 700 years before the advent of the Messiah, Isaiah spoke words that must have disconcerted and raised eyebrows among God’s people: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV). They must have wondered when—and how—it would come about.

The prophet’s words, cast upon the waters of time, came ashore when the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin, Mary. (More eyebrows would be raised.) But those who love the story never grow weary of the announcement: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus…. and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31, 33 NKJV).

While we rejoice in the gift of God’s Son, his kingdom can seem far away and unresponsive to calamities here and abroad. We may grow anxious in frustrating circumstances. Like some of the early disciples, we long to see Jesus toss our enemies over his shoulder. We desire peace and security, along with assurances of freedom and prosperity.

Like those in Isaiah’s day who awaited the advent of the Savior, we look forward to our Savior’s return. We wonder when and how this will happen. Meanwhile, if we lose heart over the condition of our world, it may be that our hearts need to refocus on Jesus in the here and now, as he is “sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1 NKJV), with “all things in subjection under his feet” (Hebrews 2:8 NKJV).

The current Year of Our Lord will close out with serious unresolved issues, and the new year will surely produce fresh troubles. Yet one thing is certain:

Immanuel . . . God with us. Matthew 1:23 NKJV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Do you cling to the hope we have in Jesus?

Hold on to Hope

by Pam Farrel

Have you ever felt like this?

You drag yourself in the door. Your arms loaded with more work than you feel you can ever get done, so you drop the burden of books, papers, briefcase, files, and bags in the middle of the floor. You don’t even bother to turn on the light because you don’t want to look at the state the house is in. You’re not sure if you want to take a long, hot bath or just skip it all together and collapse on your bed fully dressed. You are hungry but making anything to eat seems like such a bother. Your head is pounding, your heart is racing, and your body aches.

You are sick of coffee, sick of people, sick of demands, and sick of life. Everyone seems to need a piece of you, family, friends, neighbors—people you dearly love, but at this moment, it seems overwhelming to move to help them. You want to lock all the doors and unplug from all the phones, social media, and e-mail, but even that seems like work. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Something needs to change!

HOPE—a heaven-sent answer to the common plight of humanity—is the good news of the Christmas story. Each Christmas, I speak at various women’s holiday events. Using an Advent wreath and candles, I weave a message of hope, help, and inspiration based on Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (NIV).

This verse is well known to anyone that has performed or listened to Handle’s Messiah. During the Halleluiah chorus, it is tradition for the audience to stand. I think that in that inspiring moment, every heart looks for hope on the horizon.

More hope is available in the surrounding context of 9:6. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. …The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace….The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:1- 7 NIV, emphasis added).

When Isaiah wrote Isaiah 9, the people carried a desperately heavy burden. They needed a Savior and a light to lead them. We need a Savior and a light today, too. Only Heaven can send help when life looks impossible. That message is included in the Angel’s message to Mary explaining how the Messiah would come:

And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.”  …:

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. …

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1: 29-37 HCSB emphasis added)

We can have hope, because of who Jesus is, and what he has done and will do in the future.

Wonderful Counselor:  An astonishing advisor

Mighty God: The Almighty God: a strong, heroic, warrior Champion

Everlasting Father: The First and Forever Father of All

Prince of Peace: Ruler, Captain, Chief, Commanderof perfect peace and prosperity.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Pam Farrel is the author of 50+ books including this adapted excerpt from Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament: A Creative Bible Study Experience  (At DiscoveringJesusintheOT.com, Pam has posted her family’s Christmas Conversation Dinner and Dialogue devotional based on Isaiah 9:6.) More from Pam: www.Love-Wise.com

Join the conversation: What about Jesus has given you hope this Christmas season?

Only One Thing

by Melissa Heiland

How I love Christmas! I love the essence of Christmas, which is the birth of my Savior. I love the precious time spent with my family. Everything that represents Christmas brings me joy—the tree, the lights, the gifts, the traditions. And yet, as the days draw close, I admit that I also find myself with a pit of dread in my stomach. These traditions that bring me so much joy, require so much time in my already too busy schedule.

My mind is drawn to the story of Mary and Martha. When Jesus came to the home of these sisters, Martha worked hard (cooking and cleaning, I imagine) preparing for Jesus, while Mary sat at his feet listening to what Jesus was saying. I confess that I identify most with Martha. I have often thought that if Mary would have just helped her sister, Martha would have been able to sit at Jesus’ feet too.

But I am wrong. Jesus commended Mary and corrected Martha. I need correction too. Like Martha, I get worried and upset about many things. In his words to Martha, Jesus reminds us that only one thing is needed—to keep Him at the center of our hearts.

This year, I want to be different. I want to focus on the wonder and not the worry. Like Mary, I want to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Christmas is a magical time, a time of wonder and joy. It is a celebration of life. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus came to give us abundant life. Abundant life is found, not in doing more, but in doing less.

Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her. Luke 10:41,42 NIV

In the flurry of all the activity, I want to be intentional, focused on one thing: worship. I want the cry of my heart to continuously be, “Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” As I shop and bake and wrap and decorate (I will still do these things), I will worship. With God’s help, this season will be a time of sincere reflection of the miracle of God sending His Son to be born in a manger to save the world.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Melissa Heiland is the Founder and President of Beautiful Feet International, a mission organization that plants pregnancy ministries around the world. She is an international speaker and author who is passionate about mommies, babies and sharing the Gospel. She has written devotionals for pregnant moms, new mothers and short-term mission teams, as well as a children’s book based on Psalm 139. She and her husband Ken have 6 children and 5 grandchildren.

Part devotional, part pregnancy journal, A Mother’s Journey has forty chapters that correspond with each week of pregnancy, offering comfort and spiritual guidance to those facing challenges. Each week’s reading includes Scripture verses and a journal prompt, as well as information about your baby’s development at various stages to help you get to know the little one growing inside you. A Mother’s Journey is a great resource to help you connect deeper with your baby, yourself, and your heavenly Father.

Join the conversation: How are you keeping Jesus at the center of your Christmas celebration?

Hope through a Little Baby

bLucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.                                                                                 Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

Our greatest Christmas 2019 gift is the birth of a new baby this fall — my new grandson in New York.

But as I witness the news of suffering, homeless war-torn and starving families struggling to survive the upcoming winter, I cannot help but think of so many through the years who were brought hope—through the birth of a baby.

The year 1809 was a bleak and dismal time for giving birth. With the ruthless dictator Napoleon determined to conquer the world, there was little hope left in anyone’s heart. Yet in that one year alone, babies who were destined to change the world were born – Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, William Gladstone, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe, Cyrus McCormick and Felix Mendelssohn.

While no one noticed.

Millennia before, very few noticed a young couple arriving in Bethlehem, who were forced to spend the night in a stable and give birth to their baby there. But God knew. He orchestrated this humble birth as the beginning for the child who would literally change the course of history – Jesus Christ.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 NRSV

Do you ever wonder what this birth was really like?

Allow me to borrow the description of favorite storyteller Max Lucado: “A more lowly place of birth could not exist. Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is… The mystery of the event still puzzles him. What’s important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph’s saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty.

“At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel, ‘His kingdom will never end.’ He looks anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being. This newborn baby is majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.” (Max Lucado, His Name is Jesus: Promise of God’s Love Fulfilled).

I picture that scene surrounded by the music of a fifth century carol, “O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race; And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore! (“Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” Aurelius Prudentius)

Babies. Birth. Hope.

May you and yours treasure the quiet and peaceful moments that are waiting for you during this holy and yes, hope-filled, Christmas week.

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Hope through a Little Baby – encouragement from @LucindaSMcDowel on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

LucindaSMcDowell.19 (2)About the author: Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while helping people to choose a life of serenity and strength. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the award-winning author of 15 books. Whether co-directing the ReNew Retreat, pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages.

Lucinda’s latest book, Life-Giving Choices: 60 Days to What Matters Most, is a devotional book designed to help you discover what brings life, joy, and meaning. While there are myriad ways in which we can choose to spend our lives, only a few essentials truly matter. “Don’t settle for the good when you can choose the best.”

Join the Conversation: What are you waiting for?